By Susan R. Wente
Feb. 16, 2023

Today we honor a gifted attorney whose legal acumen, devotion to Wake Forest and deep commitment to the University’s Pro Humanitate ideals have distinguished him as a character-driven leader. In a decades-long career at Wake Forest that began in 1980, he has played a pivotal role in Wake Forest’s transformation from a regional institution to a top-30 national university, and I am pleased to recognize James Reid Morgan as the recipient of the 2023 Medallion of Merit. 

Mr. Morgan grew up in rural Union County, North Carolina, near Charlotte. When he enrolled in Wake Forest in 1971, he began an association with the University that continues today – more than 50 years later. He received a bachelor’s degree in history in 1975 and a Wake Forest law degree in 1979. First joining the University as a Foundations Officer in 1980, he accepted a position as a Staff Attorney the following year. He was named General Counsel in 2000, with responsibility for the legal offices on the Reynolda Campus and at the Medical School. In 2002, he was appointed Vice President and General Counsel, and was elected as Secretary of the University and the then newly formed Wake Forest University Health Sciences, and of their respective governing boards. Mr. Morgan has been Senior Vice President and General Counsel since 2011. 

Over the course of his remarkable career at Wake Forest, spanning four University presidential administrations, Mr. Morgan has, in addition to managing the daily challenges of compliance with the University’s myriad legal and regulatory obligations, provided astute guidance indispensable to the significant growth of Wake Forest’s physical footprint and institutional influence. A gifted draftsman whose words – in countless documents and during innumerable negotiations – have made possible the University’s mutually beneficial affiliation with Reynolda House; its acquisitions of nearby corporate headquarters and athletics venues; the visioning and realization of Wake Forest Innovation Quarter (now including Wake Downtown) from its inception in 2003 as the Piedmont Triad Research Park; and the critical position of our School of Medicine in the evolution of its governance under Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, to its current, prominent role as the academic core of Advocate Health, the nation’s fifth‑largest nonprofit integrated health system. Mr. Morgan’s expertise in these endeavors has proven doubly valuable as he lends his counsel to the establishment of the second campus of the Medical School in Charlotte, and that city’s own Innovation District, the “Pearl.” As Secretary to the University’s governing boards, Mr. Morgan has worked to implement state‑of‑the‑art systems and interactive meetings that have transformed Board operations and enhanced Board members’ engagement. 

Mr. Morgan’s service to the University has been impactful from the beginning. As coordinator of Wake Forest’s sesquicentennial celebration in 1984, he played a key role in the planning of a year-long celebration of the University’s 150th anniversary that culminated in a seven-day “Son et Lumière” (a sound and light show) on Hearn Plaza. “Visions and Dreams,” a dramatization of the University’s history, conveyed the spirit and character of Wake Forest to thousands of attendees and was described in the Old Gold & Black as “one of Wake Forest’s greatest community outreach projects ever.” Throughout his career, Mr. Morgan has been adept at forging and nurturing relationships, bridging divides and engaging with others on a deeply personal level that speaks to both the fundamental values of Wake Forest as an institution and to Reid’s own innate, genial nature. 

In gratitude for his skill and success in building the substantial legal framework required to support and sustain the University’s ongoing growth, for his tireless work to ensure the University’s continued autonomy in the conduct of its medical education enterprise and in securing its role as the academic core of an integrated, multi-state health system, and for his devotion to Wake Forest in the spirit of Pro Humanitate, Wake Forest University confers its highest honor, the Medallion of Merit, upon James Reid Morgan on this sixteenth day of February, two thousand twenty-three.